Back on January 11th Murphy blogged about the dangers of changing your right hand position. The quote below appeared in the comments on that post, but Murphy thought it was important enough to give it its own post. (It’s been edited slightly.):
I would have to agree with you on that one Murphy. I’ve been learning now for two years (back again after 25 years) and just last year I changed my right hand position, which was a big mistake. (Every thing was woking fine til then.) After that I got caught up in all the hype on the Banjo Hangout and thought it would be good to try and have “PROPER HAND POSITION”, it would help me to play better. Well I can tell ya it put me right back to the first year. I had to just about learn everything all over again. I’m just now getting back to where I was before I changed. And let me tell ya once you change it is stuck in your mind and there is no going back. The relaxing part is hard as well…So like Murphy said “DON’T DO IT”. It will set ya way back. –Dave in Savanna, Il.
Players’ right hands look all sorts of different ways. There are three common elements necessary in right hand position:
1. Finger(s) anchored on the head. You don’t have to have both, but you do have to have at least one, either pinky or ring, to play bluegrass.
2. Forearm resting on the armrest.
3. Wrist arched. This is where you’ll see the most variation. Some players, like J.D. Crowe, have a very arched wrist. Others, like Blake Williams, have a nearly flat wrist. (I personally don’t see how he can play like that, but he does. And it works for HIM, which is the important thing.)
And, overall, your hand must be relaxed. If you’re holding any tension in your setup, it will translate to your playing and hold you back, or maybe even cause injury in the long run.
You, as a student, may not be in the best position to judge whether your right hand position is alright. Trust what your teacher says and be very wary about making changes!
To hear Murphy's explanation of right hand setup, consult your Beginning Banjo Vol. 1 introductory lesson.